Half of depopulated Catalonia is underfunded by the Generalitat


Not everything can be fixed with money, but a few things can. Particularly where it is most scarce. And in the stormy world of municipal financethe poorest municipalities are usually those where fewer people livethose with minimal ability to collect taxes. taxes such as economic activities, a bad joke where there are no services and few companies; the of circulation, negligible in the nuclei that are turned off; or the IBI to housing, tied to the cadastral value of the property, also where it has sunk. Hence the uninhabited municipalities generally collect nothing by IBI, just the opposite of what happens in the cities.

Such leaky pockets force the tiny municipalities in population, but gigantic in territory –500 Catalan towns with less than 2,000 inhabitants administer more than 60% of the surface of Catalonia— to be extraordinarily dependent on subsidies and public investment. both of the Generalitat as of Condition. Especially to undertake projects that could give them a new life in the form of employment, access or connection to the global world, the first step to break the vicious circle of depopulation. And in that sense, the recurring complaints from mayors and the social entities that have had enough of see how your world disappears before the passivity of the Administrations they seem justified.

An analysis carried out by EL PERIÓDICO of the direct investments of the Generalitat in the Catalan regions, reflected in its budgets, confirms some of the suspicions of the rural world. Almost half of the counties that have lost population in the last decade are underfunded. Or what is the same, seven of the 16 counties hit by demographic decline received less investment per inhabitant than the Catalan average between 2011 and 2020. The one with the worst stop is the Conca de Barberà, where the Government has invested only 64 euros per capita compared to 215 euros on average throughout the territory. They follow the Montsia (71 euros), The Segarra (80 euros), Bergueda (111 euros), Priorat (130 euros), Bages (139 euros) and the Baix Ebre (214).

What Analysis period the last ten have been chosen already settled budget years (2011-2020). That is, those that reflect the real investment executed on the territoryinstead of budgeted. They open with the two commands of Arthur More and close with the tumultuous presidencies of Carles Puigdemont and Quim Torra. A period that helps to understand the response given to depopulation by independence governmentsso inclined to extol in their narrative the inland cataloniaoverwhelmingly dominated by the sovereignist parties.

Lack of a strategy against depopulation

“With that, everything is said & rdquor ;, says Jaume Gilabert in response to the conclusions of EL PERIÓDICO. Gilabert is the coordinator of ‘Eines de Repoblament Rural’, a pressure group made up of more than 500 Catalan mayors to fight against depopulation. “The problem is that the variable of depopulation is barely taken into account and, although something is being done, it is so insignificant that it amounts to very little. There is no strategic vision to invest in these regions”, adds the also mayor of Montgai and former president of the Diputació de Lleida. “If the budgets show anything, it is that there is no serious commitment to territorial rebalancing and the equality of all the citizens & rdquor ;.

In the analyzed period, a certain Purpose of amendment. Eight of the ten counties with the highest investment lose inhabitantsbut that apparent strategy to reverse its emptying is watertight when verifying how seven other depopulated counties are chronically underfunded, including the two with the lowest per capita income in Catalonia: Priorat and Montsià. “Depopulation has to be tackled through public-private collaboration. But it is clear that, if the private initiative does not take the first step, the Administrations have to do so. By themselves, the municipalities cannot reverse the course & rdquor ;, says Mercé Castillo, professor at the University of Lleida and expert in municipal finances.

The level of frustration goes through neighborhoods and has been diluted in the latest budgets, the highest in the history of Catalonia, largely due to the injection of european recovery funds. They contemplate an increase in direct investment compared to 2020 in 34 of the 42 counties. Per inhabitant earns High Ribagorça, the sixth that loses the most population. “Without the investment from the Generalitat we would have a significant hole, but it is also true that we are very few and that this year a couple of large investments coincide & rdquor ;, says the mayor of Pont of Luckthe regional capital, Jose Antonio Troguet (JuntsxCat).

The bulk of the 16 million euros budgeted for this Pyrenean region will be used to build its county filekeep the Boi Taull ski resort and erect a new electrical connection to prevent blackouts. Other old ambitions will have to wait. From the potential to develop the apple tree cultivationto the playful exploitation of one of its reservoirs or the improvement of its road access which, in this case, should be undertaken by the State through Fomento.

Inconsistency of the independence discourse

At almost the other extreme is the Terra Alta, the region that lost the most population in the past decade –above 10%– and the one that has seen the most investment evaporate when comparing its endowment in 2022 with that of 2010, the last exercise of the tripartite chaired by the socialist Montilla. It has fallen by 97%; 42% if compared to 2020. “The independence speech It has a great impact on supporting the rural world, but when it comes to shaping it, they do not put a penny. They say some things and do others, that’s what hurts the most,” says the deputy and socialist mayor of Bat, Joaquim Paladella. The less than two million euros that his region will receive will go largely to maintaining the roads and building a nursing home. There is nothing for the irrigation project that they have been claiming for years.

“In the towns you arrange a career for them and people settle for it. As was the case with Pujol, the Generalitat spends as little as possible on infrastructure and projects that can create wealth. That money goes to the cities and thus depopulation cannot be stopped & rdquor ;, adds Paladella. Your colleague from Montblanc, the capital of the Conca de Barberà, the emptied region that has received the least investment during the analyzed decade, distributes blame between the different Administrations. “It doesn’t just happen with the Generalitat, it’s the same with the State Government. See how much you invest in the Spain Emptied. The mistreatment of unpopulated areas it is shared”, says Josep Andreu, a former member of Esquerra and now of Junts.

His region has won the lottery this year. Not only has it received the largest investment from the State in Catalonia, according to the mayor, but the Generalitat will finance part of a logistics area for Bon Preu through the public company Cimalsa. “There is no doubt that depopulation is related to lack of investment. Why aren’t similar estates built in all depopulated areas to attract industry?”, asks Andreu. “This is a complex issue, but they have to take it seriously at once because here everyone talks, but nobody does anything & rdquor ;.

Methodological note

The figures used to analyze the investments of the Generalitat in the Catalan counties are reflected in the Chapter VI of the budgets, detailing the ‘royal investment’ in the territory executed by the Catalan government. This real investment is divided into two types: the “regionalized investment & rdquor;which breaks down the funds received by each region, and the “investment not localized & rdquor;, the one that crosses demarcations and cannot be assigned to a single region. The latter usually represents between 10% and 20% of the total “real investment”, but since it is not regionalized, it has not been used in the calculations of EL PERIÓDICO.

It should also be noted that direct investment in the territories is not the only item that the Generalitat allocates to the development of municipalities and counties. The Chapter VII of the budgets collects the “capital transfers” various public entities to carry out projects in the territory. This indirect investment it is not regionalized either, so it is not taken into account for the calculations. As a general rule, its total amount is around half of the direct investment consigned in Chapter VI, according to sources from the Department of Economy. In 2020, for example, direct investment was 1,229 million euros and indirect investment was 489 million.

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